Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette Lawton Park Greenhouse volunteer Phyllis Temple puts planters together for the Mother's Day Plant Sale, which benefits the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory.

Sunday, June 10, 2018 1:00 am

Volunteers boost parks' plant programs

Some start seeds at home, others run tractors at Salomon

Kathi Weiss | For The Journal Gazette

Tweezers and tractors are the tools of the trade for plant volunteers with Fort Wayne parks.

Linda Forest and Sue Butts painstakingly plant seeds, using tweezers to distribute the tiny seeds into seed-starting trays. “Sue and I start all of the plants at home,” Forest says. “The plants take up almost a quarter of my dining room.”

These plants will then be sold at the Community Center plant sale that takes place around Mother's Day in May. Forest and Butts have been involved in the plant program for five years. They work four to six hours a week starting at the end of December. Their efforts culminate with the plant sale.

Forest and Butts are among a number of volunteers in the Fort Wayne area that give their time to many organizations and causes.

All of this voluntarism is a huge benefit to Fort Wayne. A 2016 report by the Volunteer Center in Fort Wayne, which provides a corps of volunteers to help in the community as well as offering people places to volunteer, shows that more than 85,000 volunteer hours have provided more than $2 million to the community. There are more than 200 venues for volunteers in the community, the center says.

Forest's and Butts' efforts in the plant sale help such places as the Community Center, as money from the sale goes to support wellness programs there. The wellness exercise program was the impetus for Forest's involvement.

Previously, there had been a grant to support the wellness program. When that funding disappeared, alternative sources of revenue were sought. Plant sales and craft projects of tea cozies, aprons and purses began to subsidize the wellness program. This has allowed low prices for drop-in exercise programs to continue.

It's one of the reasons the Community Center relies on volunteers for its operations.

The Community Center had 180 active volunteers for 2017 and a combined total of 8,367.50 hours, according to the Volunteer Center. The savings to the Community Center was a total of $201,657.96 based on the volunteer national pay rate of $24.10 a hour.

In addition to growing plants at home, Forest and Butts also volunteer at the Lawton Park Greenhouse.

Fort Wayne residents may pass by the greenhouse and not give it a second glance. However, inside, the greenhouse is the location for all of the flowers for the plant sale, as well as for the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory and many of the city's parks.

Phyllis Temple, 85, has worked at the greenhouse for 15 years. “When my husband died, my lifestyle was changing,” Temple says. “I wanted to do something.” She decided to volunteer for the botanical gardens and began at the greenhouse. “In the wintertime, the greenhouse is a great place to be,” she says.

Temple estimates the greenhouse grows about 19,000 plants at the greenhouse just for the school programs. She enjoys being one of the volunteers to help make it happen. “I inherited the tendency to want to play in the soil,” she says.

Dave Fike also enjoys playing in the soil. He can be found on a tractor at Salomon Farm Park on Dupont Road. Salomon Farm Park is a working farm and depends on volunteers to help in its upkeep.

Fike has been involved at Salomon since 1993. He is president of the Tri State Antique Tractor Club and has 63 “guys in the club.”

“We plow, we disc, and we plant ... wheat, oats, corn and beans,” he says.

Fike says there is a plot of 180 acres that runs from Dupont Road to Till Road. He and his group farm 35 to 40 acres of that plot. In addition to the tractors, the farm has a sawmill, two thrashing machines, a corn shredder, a corn sheller and a baler. They also work with seven to eight teams of horses. 

The group works 20 to 30 hours a week getting ready to plant. The planting culminates with the farm's Fall Festival in September where produce is sold. 

But that doesn't mean the work stops. There is always something to do for volunteers at the farm.